Pica considering try to return to Senate

Former state Sen. John A. Pica Jr., who has been out of office the past 16 years, is considering a return to the political arena with a possible Democratic primary challenge to Baltimore Sen. William C. Ferguson IV.

Pica, a Baltimore County resident who represented Northeast Baltimore in the Senate from 1983 until abruptly resigning midway through his fourth term in 1996, said Friday that he plans to move to Little Italy -- "the neighborhood where I was born" -- in the next few months.


The 60-year-old former legislator confirmed reports that he has been sounding out legislators and community leaders about making a comeback in the race for the 46th District seat Ferguson won in 2010.

"I wouldn't be looking at this if I didn't think I could be a much more effective senator," Pica said. He said that while his votes on issues would not be much different from Ferguson's, he could be more effective than Ferguson in bringing back state money to Baltimore.

Pica could find it difficult to claw his way back into the Senate. The 46th District, which extends from South Baltimore through Little Italy to Southeast along the waterfront, has little if any overlap with Pica's former turf in the 43rd District. Once a bastion of the city's white ethnic working class, the 46th is increasingly populated by young, hip urbanites.

Ferguson, the youngest member of the Maryland Senate at 29, knocked off seven-term incumbent George W. Della Jr. in the 2010 Democratic primary. After a bitter campaign marked by harsh accusations on both sides, the young teacher trounced the veteran by almost 60 percent to 40 percent.

The incumbent said he will seek re-election. If Pica does run, Ferguson said, the race will be seen as a contest between "old politics" and a "new way of doing business."

"I have to focus on doing my job well and that's where I am now and hopefully if I do, my neighbors will send me back to the Senate," he said.

Pica spent more than a decade after his departure from the Senate as a registered lobbyist -- for many of those years representing The Law Firm of Peter G. Angelos, his longtime employer. In recent years his only client was the Special Olympics of Maryland. He did not register as a lobbyist for 2012.

Lobbying just wasn't for him, Pica said. "I really didn't like it," he said.

While Pica has been out of the limelight for almost two decades, he retains the distinction of being the only person to have defeated Martin O'Malley in an election. In 1990, the 27-year-old O'Malley -- now serving his second term as governor -- challenged the two-term senator in the Democratic primary and came up short by only 44 votes.